Last Wednesday I gave Anthony Cronin a sudden deadline: today's poem was needed before the country closed down for Christmas. It was duly dispatched within 24 hours and while there is much sadness at his passing, it is magical that his words are on the page today.
I inherited the Sunday Poem 14 years ago and felt proud and privileged that space was given every week to this most beautiful of art forms, and by such a distinguished writer who knew and deeply loved poetry. As my predecessor Ronan Farren remarked, "he was very interesting, hugely clever and knowledgeable about so much, and poetry of course in particular".
Needless to say he needed no editing. There was never a word out of place and his choice was always intriguing. In the past year his selection ranged from Yeats and Betjeman to Byron's Don Juan and Shelley's Epipsychidion, from Leonard Cohen and Philip Larkin to poets who were new to me - CH Sisson, Michael Ivens, Eden Philpotts. Like many readers, I enjoyed the accompanying note as much as the verse. He rarely missed a deadline or took a holiday and his impeccable manners were a rare delight in these frenzied times. Occasionally I'd request a children's poem and he acquiesced in that gentle, graceful way he had, invariably plumping for Hilaire Belloc or Edward Lear. And, poignantly, his penultimate choice was John Montague's Last Chance.
To his dearest Anne and family, our deepest sympathies. Ar dheis De go raibh a anam dilis.